Need Windows 7 Ebook Reader App With TTS

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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
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Hi all. I thought all my geeky sci fi fan friends might be able to help me with this. I've been using the @Voice app on Android for a long time to do text to speech (TTS) on my tablet and do things like reading PDF's and documents to me. It works well. But, I'm finding it hard to find something similar for Windows 7.

So, I need a Windows 7 EBook Reader App With TTS that can read PDF's and maybe other EBook formats. It needs to be a stand alone app, not an online service. It also needs to be free or an inexpensive one time payment. Any suggestions are appreciated.

For reference I don't have any Adobe or MS Office programs on the PC. I've tried the Kindle app but the TTS is horrible.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

Troy

Member
Oct 20, 2020
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For PDF files, Adobe Acrobat DC has "Read Out Load" at the bottom of the View menu.
Aren't ebooks a special pdf format? Might work with those too, maybe. I'm looking at this on Windows 10 so if they make a distinction, then well mileage and all that...
 

rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
Hi @Troy . Thanks for the thought but I'm not using any Adobe software since I don't trust them to be secure. So, I'm trying to find something else.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

PHolder

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Sep 16, 2020
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I'm guessing you don't have a cheap way to get your ebooks in an audio format, as that would probably be the best spoken quality. I believe Calibre can do this, and the older versions are still around, so maybe an older version can run on your Windows 7 if the current version does not.

EDIT: Okay, so I should have checked before believing my Google result pointing at Reddit. I do use (and thus have installed) Calibre, but I have never used this feature. Near as I can tell it exists, in the PD viewer it uses, which on my system is Chredge. It's at the bottom of the menu, says "Read Aloud". I don't know that you will have Credge available to use in Windows 7 though. Also, that probably won't help with EPUB books or whatever the format is for Amazon books. Still Calibre is a great ebook manager and you should check it out anyway.

EDIT EDIT: Well the docs imply different. Time for me to update my version, which is older at this time, and see of there is something I've missed. Relevant doc: https://manual.calibre-ebook.com/viewer.html#read-aloud

EDIT EDIT EDIT: LOL, finally. I never knew the built in reader had a right click pop up "menu". That is where you find the read aloud option. So whatever format the book, right click on it in your list if books and select View and the select the built in viewer. Then when it opens the book (which can take some time, especially the first time), right click and look for "Read Aloud".
 
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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
@PHolder Thanks very much for the time you took to share that information. Calibre had also popped up in some of my YouTube research. As it turns out, v3.48 is the last one that can work in Windows 7 and v5.37 or close to it is required to do the read aloud function. :( I did get the older version installed and it looks pretty cool. I'm amazed at how hard this TTS is to do in Windows 7 and how easy it is to do in Android. I'm still looking for a solution to add TTS to Windows 7. There are some browser plugins but I have some privacy concerns about those and I don't know if any of those can open PDF's. So, this is an interesting learning experience.

For those who wish to look at Calibre, it's at:


I found a product which comes out of Europe called ClaroRead. That's $ 85 so it's on the back burner. It also doesn't look like it supports Windows 7.


I also ran across a thing called BalaBolka, but it's available for download at many sites and I'm dubious of security implications unless I can find the actual producer of the product.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

PHolder

Well-known member
Sep 16, 2020
997
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444
Ontario, Canada
@rfrazier I was trying to re-find the reddit page I found before, because they mentioned a plugin and then said it was built into the current version. In any case, I saw reference to a TTS to MP3 plugin. That implies you could convert the text to speech to a MP3 file to play anywhere, but you would need to use a newer PC for that running a current version (5.4 or higher.) I know that would be sub-optimal, but I thought I would suggest it just in case.

EDIT: Still haven't found the page I saw before, but there's this, which links to a GitHub plugin (in Python) that does TTS. Perhaps it would work in your older version on Windows 7. You'd need to figure out how to install SAPI (Speech API) on your Windows 7 machine if it's not already present though, so this could be a bit of a "project". https://www.reddit.com/r/Calibre/comments/bsgwqw
 
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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
Thanks again. Still doing research. I may have to give it up for the night as it's 3 AM here. I typed "text to" in the search in Start and got to a menu that shows there is at least some TTS in Windows 7. It shows one voice (not very good) and I can click test and it reads a sentence. I haven't figured out how to do anything else with it. The following video says he's referencing the official version of BalaBolka but I haven't tried it. I think I'm spent for the night. More later. If I don't make progress tomorrow, I may just give up and play things on my tablet. I'm afraid I'm STILL not interested in Windows 10.

How to make TTS (Text-to-Speech) Voices for your videos

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
Thanks for all the info shared regardless of whether I can directly use it. Sometimes, it leads to a trail of bread crumbs that's helpful. I try to share everything I learn, in case it can help someone else. Sometimes a neat synergy develops.

So, here's an interim report.

@PHolder mention of a reddit thread lead me to these.


search for balabolka




Balabolka seems to have a good reputation. It's Russian, which concerns me a little considering current politics. Hopefully, it's still OK.


The Balabolka site has some good info. It also mentions the Microsoft Speech Platform, which I might try to install.


runtime


voices


One of the threads on https://www.mobileread.com/forums/ mentioned TextAloud.

So, that's where I am. I may install the Microsoft Speech Platform and voices, then see if the older Calibre or Kindle can do anything with it. I may also try Balabolka after further review, although I don't know if it can open PDF files. This is an interesting topic I've never researched. I'll give it a while longer before I bail out.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
@Barry Wallis I banished all Adobe products from my PC a decade ago or so when @Steve first mentioned Sumatra PDF or Foxit PDF (don't remember which). Considering the hot mess of security updates they're coming up with every month, no, I don't trust Adobe at all. Having said that, I don't just download anything I see on the net. But, if something has a strong trend of positive reviews on YouTube and on relevant forums (mobileread in this case), then I might try it. I trust small sincere developers to try to maintain the core features of their product without a decade of feature bloat and trying to put everything but the kitchen sink in the program. Also, small niche programs like these probably are not as big a target for attack as Adobe. I also don't like Adobe's rent software forever model. And Adobe products tend to take lots of disk space. Of course, I virus scan anything before installing. No offense to anyone who uses Adobe.

YAY! I have it working, at least good enough for my purposes. Unfortunately, I couldn't get anything to work with the old version of Calibre as far as text to speech but I could still use the program for managing Ebooks if I want. I actually do almost everything on audio.

I downloaded and installed the Microsoft Speech Platform from Microsoft as well as a few English voices. Funny thing happened that MS showed two files named SpeechPlatformRuntime.msi so I installed the larger one. I couldn't find any evidence that I'd done anything.

After reading / viewing a number of positive articles or videos about Balabolka, I decided to give it a try. I downloaded from the following which seems to be the official site. I think the one I linked to before has the same content.


I reinstalled the SpeechPlatformRuntime.msi from the Balabolka site. After this, the voices I'd already installed from MS showed up in the Balabolka menu system. I was now able to convert text to speech with pretty good fidelity. The website says you can also get other professional voices from a few sources that sound better.

I loaded a PDF of a magazine. The narrow columns of the magazine came in as short lines with annoying pauses after each. I discovered that I had to turn on a function to "format" text for speech reading. This took a while to figure out.

You go to options / settings / text, and turn on:

* format text when file is opened
* format pasted text
* format text before reading clipboard aloud

Then save the settings. That got rid of the annoying pauses and provides a very passable speech output that I can use. Some of the voices still sound robotic, but definitely good enough for free.

I've attached a snippet of the system reading from a Python book I have. It converted the whole book to MP3. Then I brought that into Audacity and cut out a snippet, and reconverted to MP3. So, the actual sound I have here might be better than this sample. Some of the voices sound a bit better as well, but I like the accent of the one I'm using.

PS after reading the Balabolka faq in the help, it appears that I had to install the 32 bit speech platform as well as the 64 bit one. This is apparently what I did in a round about way to get it to work.

So, I have a solution. It's a bit awkward but is usable. If anyone else has experience with this feel free to share.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 

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Barry Wallis

Magician in Training
I banished all Adobe products from my PC a decade ago or so when @Steve first mentioned Sumatra PDF or Foxit PDF (don't remember which). Considering the hot mess of security updates they're coming up with every month, no, I don't trust Adobe at all. Having said that, I don't just download anything I see on the net. But, if something has a strong trend of positive reviews on YouTube and on relevant forums (mobileread in this case), then I might try it. I trust small sincere developers to try to maintain the core features of their product without a decade of feature bloat and trying to put everything but the kitchen sink in the program. Also, small niche programs like these probably are not as big a target for attack as Adobe.
I understand. I only have the Adobe Acrobat app from the Microsoft app store and I can't remember the last time I needed to use it. I agree that smaller developers whose products are not widely used (especially by enterprises) are not a likely target. However, I have no reason to believe those developers are any better at creating secure software than Adobe. or MS, etc.
 

rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
496
166
I understand. I only have the Adobe Acrobat app from the Microsoft app store and I can't remember the last time I needed to use it. I agree that smaller developers whose products are not widely used (especially by enterprises) are not a likely target. However, I have no reason to believe those developers are any better at creating secure software than Adobe. or MS, etc.
@Barry Wallis I can think of 5 plausible reasons that Adobe (or any other big company) might have inferior security. Of course, I cannot prove it.

1. Smaller attack surface. Not too many people are emailing speech reading documents to people to crash their computers. This type of attack probably is possible though.
2. Feature Creep. Enormous complex systems tend to have millions of lines of code and try to do everything but (or maybe including) slicing bread. They may have many developers. That leaves more room for malfunctions.
3. Continual excessive changes. The design philosophy now seems to be to never have a stable product.
4. Commercial gotta get it done yesterday before the competition at a very cheap price pressure.
5. The pervasive attitude nowadays of shipping things before they're done without adequate quality control and testing and expecting the customers to be the Beta testers.

I think free or freemium or paid niche product developers are more likely to adopt a "we'll make no wine before its time" attitude. Like @Steve . Having said that, since I'm trying to learn professional programming again after 30+ years, I will acknowledge that the security issues are infinitely more complex than they were back then. The app I wrote back then was DOS / LAN only. Windows wasn't a thing. And the internet wasn't a thing. All I had to do was make the thing work. That app was a flight simulator maintenance tracking system for a major airline. This encompassed 4 local offices, 1 remote office, 40 workstations, and 120 users. But, it was definitely not on the Internet. That would have been much harder. Learning again with this new twist is intimidating.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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